Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia
Publication No. 19 - 1985
KILL THE PHILLIPS FAMILY
By Emory L. Hamilton
The first inkling I received of this
incident was in a conversation with an 82-year-old lady. One Sunday near
Dungannon, in Scott County, Virginia, she told me that she could
remember hearing her grandmother tell of a family being killed near the
river at Dungannon. All of the family except a little boy who crawled
under a bed was killed. She could not remember even the name of the
family slain and I sort of stored the story in the back of my mind
thinking that nothing would ever come of it, since one cannot do
research without having names.
Nothing of a personal nature has been
found concerning this family who were very early settlers in that
section of Scott County, just up the river from the present village of
Dungannon. Only the name of the family is known. What the Christian name
of the wife and five children who were slain was, is not known.
The Phillips family had settled early
near the island in Clinch River, and up river from the ford which in
those days was known by its original name of Hunter's Ford. Two land
grants entered in the records of old Fincastle County locates the
Phillips settlement, and the first reads as follows:
Surveyed for Phillip Phillips, 320
acres of land lying in Fincastle County, on the north side of an island
in Clinch River...bounded as follows: Beginning at a double sugar
sapling at the lower point of the island, thence up the south side
thereof to the upper point and across to the mainland, thence up the
river according to its several courses, etc., etc., to pointers on the
bank just below the mouth of a gut. (In early days a stream was called a
gut. This was the stream that ran out of Hunters Valley by Osborne's
Store and emptied in Clinch River.)
This tract was surveyed on the 31st of
March, 1774, (the first surveys ever made on the Clinch River and
surveyed by Captain Daniel Smith), but the entry does not give a
settlement date as some of the early surveys did. How long the Phillips
family had lived on the survey before this date is not known.
To further pinpoint the Phillips
settlement, an entry made on August 9, 1781 in Washington County,
Virginia, surveyed for Martin Duncan, heir at law to John Duncan,
deceased, (the John Duncan killed by Indians at Moore's Fort in 1774),
reads as follows:
...that Martin Duncan, heir at law to
John Duncan, deceased, is entitled to 400 acres of land by settlement
made in the year 1772, (the year John Duncan settled), lying in the
County of Washington, on the north side of Clinch River, known by the
name of Hunter's Ford, a little below Phillip Phillips...
Mrs. Samuel Scott who lived on the
Clinch for eight years, with her father, John McCorkle, prior to her
removal to Kentucky about 1784, related the following story to the Rev.
John Shane, years later, in Jessamine County, Kentucky:
We moved to Clinch at Moore's Fort.
Was wintering at our place eight (8) miles off from the fort and about a
half mile from the river. One Phillips family was killed between us and
the river - near to the river. Mamma was gone up with a neighbor, Mr.
and Mrs. Kilgore, (either Charles or Robert Kilgore) to Castlewood, near
the fort to buy some sheep at a sale. He (Phillips) was away in North
Carolina at the time. One boy escaped. I think by crawling under the
bed. All the rest of the family were killed. About two years after this
we moved over to the Holston to get rid of the Indians. Had lived on the
Clinch eight (8) years. Went to the Holston to get ready to come to
Kentucky. (Draper MSS 11 CC 224)
It was 1780 that Mrs. Scott's family
moved over to the Holston River and her father, John McCorkle died on
July 12, 1780, while they were in Houston's Fort on Big Moccasin Creek.
In her narrative Mrs. Scott tells of her father buying land for which he
never got a title or deed. To further locate the site of the Phillips
massacre and to verify Mrs. Scott's story, this interesting entry comes
from the Russell County, Virginia, Land Survey Book No. 1, page 203.
Surveyed 19 September 1794, for Joseph
McCorkle, heir-at-law to John McCorkle, deceased, 320 acres of land by
virtue of a certificate from the Commissioners of the District of
Washington and Montgomery counties and agreeable to an act of the
Assembly entitled "An Act for Adjusting and settling claims to
unpatented lands under the present and former governments previous to
the establishment of the Commonwealth's Land Offices, lying Russell
County, near Hunter's Valley on the waters of Staunton's Creek, and on
the slopes of Buckner's Ridge.
The above entry locates the land upon
which Mrs. Scott's family must have lived during their stay on the
Clinch. It will be noted that Stanton's Creek empties into the Clinch
near Gray's Island and Buckner's Ridge and Hunter's Valley lie to the
north of the island. Mrs. Scott says they lived about a mile from the
river and that the Phillips family was killed between them and the river
"near to the river."
The second direct reference to the
killing of the Phillips family comes from the pension statement of
Alexander Ritchie, Jr. whose home was on the south side of Clinch River
near Gray's Island, where the Ritchie family had settled in the year
1772. He states:
That he moved from the fort (Blackmore's)
in the fall of 1778 to his father's plantation where he continued to
live until the 12th day of March, (1779) the next ensuing, and early in
the morning of the 12th the news reached this applicant that the Indians
had broken out and had killed six (6) persons belonging to the family of
a man by the name of Phillips.
Ritchie gives the number killed in
this family, but no names, and by his statement the killing must have
occurred on the evening of the 11th of March or early morning of the
12th of March, 1779. At this time Alexander Ritchie, Jr., was serving in
the frontier militia. His pension statement was filed in Claiborne
County, Tennessee, 26th of April 1836.